U.S. to tackle militant sanctuaries in Afghanistan:Pakistan

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan on Thursday responded to Washington’s accusation that it shelters the Afghan Taliban by saying the U.S. military itself is failing to eliminate militant sanctuaries inside Afghanistan.

The rare reaction came in a policy statement issued by the office of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi after a meeting of the civilian and military leadership.

President Donald Trump has accused Pakistan of harbouring “agents of chaos” and providing safe havens to militant groups waging an insurgency against a U.S.-backed government in Kabul. Islamabad, he said, must quickly change tack.

Pakistan, however, saw things differently.

“We would like to see effective and immediate U.S. military efforts to eliminate sanctuaries harbouring terrorists and miscreants on Afghan soil, including those responsible for fomenting terror in Pakistan,” the Prime Minister’s office said in a statement, one of the strongest ever responses to Washington. The Afghan war cannot be fought in Pakistan, it said.

The statement referred not only to the Afghan Taliban, but also the loosely affiliated Pakistani Taliban that Islamabad contends uses sanctuaries inside Afghanistan to plan attacks on Pakistani soil.

White House officials have threatened cuts in aid and military support, as well as other measures to force nuclear-armed Pakistan’s hand and bring about an end to the 16-year-war.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said Washington should not use Pakistan as a “scapegoat” for its failures in America’s longest running war. Pakistan denies harbouring militants.